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Queen Elizabeth II’s Commonwealth Tour of New Zealand and Australia 1953-1954

Queen Elizabeth II arriving at Leura onboard the royal train. Source: State Archives NSW

In November 1953, Queen Elizabeth II together with Prince Philip embarked on the Commonwealth World Tour, the longest and most extensive trip of her reign. She arrived in New Zealand in December 1953, where she spent six weeks meeting government officials and locals alike. The trip was the first-ever to be made by a reigning monarch of New Zealand. Previous royal visits were either made by brothers or sons of a sovereign. It was in New Zealand’s Government House where she gave her annual Royal Christmas Message in 1953. The itinerary took the couple to 46 towns and cities and New Zealanders would flock to see them. Roughly three-fourths of the country’s population hurried to catch a glimpse of their new Queen.

Queen Elizabeth II at the Auckland Government House Garden Party. 

Queen Elizabeth II in Waitangi. Source: Archives New Zealand

Queen Elizabeth II and Mayor Harry Barker in Gisborne. Source: Archives New Zealand

Queen Elizabeth II at the Timaru Railway Station. Source: Archives New Zealand

Elizabeth II also holds the distinction as the first sovereign to set foot on the Australian soil, arriving at Farm Cove, Sydney, on February 3, 1954.  On February 4, she opened the Parliament of New South Wales in Australia, another first in the history of Australia. She would repeat that task in February 1992. Her tour took her and the Duke of Edinburgh from the Australian Capital Territory to New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, traveling approximately 10,000 miles by air, visiting all major cities except Darwin and 70 country towns via the special "royal trains. This enabled approximately 75 percent of the population to meet Her Majesty at least once during the tour.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip en route to Eagle Farm Airport, Brisbane. Source: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at Government House, Brisbane. Source: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

The Queen at Bathurst Station ready to board the Royal Train. Source: State Archives NSW

 Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip arrive at Oakey. Source: State Library of Queensland.

In an article of Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies said of Her Majesty’s trip:

"It is a basic truth that for our Queen we have within us, sometimes unrealised until the moment of expression, the most profound and passionate feelings of loyalty and devotion. It does not require much imagination to realise that when eight million people spontaneously pour out this feeling they are engaging in a great act of common allegiance and common joy which brings them closer together and is one of the most powerful elements converting them from a mass of individuals to a great cohesive nation. In brief, the common devotion to the Throne is a part of the very cement of the whole social structure."


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